“I will not go to vote because nothing is going to change in Russia”

Russia lives this weekend knowing that the presidential elections that are being held are not going to mean any change in the life of the country. The electoral campaign, which has not existed as such, demonstrates the lack of uncertainty of the result. The question Russians ask each other is whether they will vote, not who they plan to vote for.

Maxim is a 21-year-old medical student whose life has been marked by Putin. When he was born, the president had already been leading the country for more than three years. He believes that his life can change if he goes abroad, something he has seriously considered since the beginning of the mobilization. «My parents have encouraged me to leave. They tell me that doctors' salaries are not enough to buy an apartment, to have a comfortable life. It is something that I do not rule out, but I cannot leave without having first received my diploma. “I'm not going to go vote because nothing is going to change.”

Larissa, a retired teacher, believes the country has improved during the Putin years. She has no problem talking about politics, but she prefers not to answer questions about the war. «I have lived through Perestroika and the end of the USSR. The country was bankrupt. We worked and were barely paid, we had to manage to find food. Now no one dies of hunger. Health and education work. There are roads, infrastructure for the people. All this has been achieved thanks to Putin.

The eternal president will continue to lead the country as long as his health allows, obtaining one more mandate that will grant him six more years in power, without alternative options and competing this year at the polls against three rivals who know in advance that their prize has been to appear on the ballots. In recent weeks, the president's television appearances have multiplied, eclipsing the other candidates. The registration of presidential candidates had begun with a certain optimism and a candidate named Boris Nadezhdin, who became a social phenomenon by promising to end the war in Ukraine upon being elected. It did not pass the filter of the Electoral Commission.

Months earlier, another unknown 40-year-old candidate named Ekaterina Duntsova had run as a candidate for the presidency of Russia, from the small city of Rzhev. Her speech was based on reconciliation and the first point of her program was also to end the war in Ukraine. He didn't make the cut either.

The three candidates blessed by the Electoral Commission are old acquaintances in Russian politics and are not going to pose any problems for Putin. Nikolai Kharitonov, of the Communist Party, already participated in the 2004 presidential elections, coming in second place. At 75 years old, he has confessed that his is a revenge against Putin and he has every chance to repeat the results obtained twenty years ago. He is among politicians sanctioned by the United Kingdom and the United States for his express support of the invasion of Ukraine.

Leonid Slutskithe second of those chosen, is the heir to the controversial Vladimir Zhirinovsky, died in 2022. His formation, the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), has been characterized by its ultra-conservative ideas. Slutski was accused by several journalists in 2018 of sexual harassment, leading to one of the most notorious scandals in recent political history. That same year, the late Alexei Navalni published a report in which he reported on the politician's shenanigans and corruption.

Vladislav Davankov, from the New People party, is the least known of the three and can boast of belonging to the only Russian party that abstained from the vote to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk. In 2023 he was a candidate for mayor of Moscow obtaining 5.38% of the vote.

Navalni's shadow will undoubtedly be present during the voting weekend. The dissident, who died on February 16, was the only politician who could stand up to Putin and, after his disappearance, that space has been left orphaned, with the rest of the opponents imprisoned, outside the country or buried. This same week, the politician's right-hand man and main associate, Leonid Volkov, was attacked near his home in Vilnius, Lithuania. Volkov's attacker broke a window of the vehicle he was in and sprayed tear gas into his eyes before starting to hit him with a hammer. Volkov, together with Navalni's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, had mobilized their followers through social networks in recent weeks to carry out a campaign called “noon against Putin” that aims to bring together those who are against the re-election of the Russian president in front of the electoral colleges.

The challenge of the eternal president is to register a high participation of the electorate that validates the elections. Only the head of the Kremlin knows what happens after the results and the percentage of support for Putin are known.